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Becker County encounters more lost ballots

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - One day after problems surfaced during Becker County's recount of the U.S. Senate race, election officials here faced another discrepancy.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - One day after problems surfaced during Becker County's recount of the U.S. Senate race, election officials here faced another discrepancy.

Election officials found a 46-vote discrepancy between the number of ballots cast on Election Day and those recounted Tuesday.

A day earlier, 61 ballots initially left out of the Nov. 4 election results were added, and officials scrambled to find four missing ballots that had been originally counted but couldn't be found.

It was unclear Tuesday how the 61 ballots would affect the race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken. A statewide recount began last week with Franken trailing Coleman by 215 votes.

In Becker County, the discrepancy discovered Tuesday involved votes cast in two township precincts. Most of the missing ballots came from Lake Eunice Township, where 32 ballots were missing. The other 14 were from Spruce Grove Township.

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Officials found the missing ballots, which were turned in at the Becker County Courthouse about 1 p.m.

To track down the missing ballots, Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen sent a staff member to the locked room where election supplies are stored to see if the ballots were there.

The ballots were not found, though.

Tangen went through several steps to find the ballots, including interviewing election night workers.

Fourteen ballots were missing from Spruce Grove's totals.

An election judge found the Spruce Grove ballots inside the box at the township offices. He reported the ballots must have jiggled out from where they were stuck inside the box when it was moved to a storage area after election night.

Tangen instructed a second election judge to help transport the ballots to the courthouse.

Tangen said such mishaps can happen, especially with a 90 percent turnout in the county keeping election workers busy.

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"We do it once every two years," Tangen said.

The county - one of the last in the area to go through the process - saw the two campaigns challenge 25 ballots on Monday. It was unclear how many were challenged on Tuesday and the recount is expected to continue since workers didn't finish.

The state's 2.9 million ballots cast earlier this month are to be recounted by Dec. 5.

The Detroit Lakes Tribune and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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